Ask A Satellite For Directions

Hand-held gadgets that receive signals from space make it harder to get lost

No well-prepared Boy Scout troop would wander into the wilderness without a compass. But Scouts may soon have a more sophisticated way to keep from getting lost, using a technology that the Army made famous during Operation Desert Storm. To find their bearings in the desert landscape, soldiers relied on hand-held electronic gadgets called Global Positioning System receivers. The devices, which pick up signals from a $10 billion network of U.S. satellites, can pinpoint a location instantly anywhere on the earth.

Civilians can buy similar products from electronics companies. GPS receivers steer boaters around dangerous reefs, track schools of bait for...

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